I went to see this movie a few weeks ago with my esteemed moviegoing associates dreameling, Mr. Fahrenheit and The Pas. The reason: A little artsy-schmartsy movie theatre was running the film in memorian of its creator, Tobe Hooper, who died in August. I understand the movie house will be running more vintage classics as time goes by, but this was a fitting tribute.
We practically cosplayed as the Sawyer family.
This was really fun and – considering its age – an excellent film, very much a classic of the cinema and the genre and … okay, it was cheesy and hammily-acted at best and generally old-movie-looking, but it has held up really well. The IMDB page linked above, and the Wikipedia page here, have a lot of fun info about the movie.
For example, John Larroquette (of Boston Legal fame, among many many other things) claimed that his payment for narrating the movie was a marijuana joint. That’s class. And check out the stuff about the mafia front that acted as original film distributor. Holy crap.
My main take-away was that the crazy hitchhiker character looked suspiciously like James Franco. Or, you know, his dad or something. Totally tagging Franco for the reboot. The reboot-reboot?
Anyway, this is a true classic and highly enjoyable. According to Mr. Fahrenheit we were the only four people in the theatre who weren’t enjoying the movie ironically, but that might be uncharitable of him to say.
Hooper creates – or so I’m told – great atmospheric and slow-build stories, particularly in his horror. I confess to ignorance, never having really seen much of his stuff (I hadn’t seen this before either, and I haven’t seen any of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequels and remakes), but this was definitely a nice build up to a shockingly abrupt and violent series of gory murders (that first appearance of Leatherface with the hammer, bwaaahahaha) and suitably horrible creepy-redneck cannibal family antics. Lots of horror movie tropes in this one, which is fair since this is the one they all came from. The bunch of kids driving out to a secluded cabin (in the woods, indeed), and all the rest. Great stuff.
A lot of the performances were, if massively over the top, actually pretty good. I liked the Franklin character, who started out sort of creepy and unsympathetic and then turned into some kind of voice of reason for the movie. Apparently the actor went full method with it, so his fellow actors thought he was a right penis. But they got over it.
“After getting into the old-age makeup, John Dugan [grandpa, at the back] decided that he did not ever want to go through the process again, meaning that all the scenes with him had to be filmed in the same session before he could take the makeup off. This entire process took about 36 hours (five of which which took to put the makeup on), during a brutal summer heat wave where the average temperature was over 100 degrees, with a large portion of it spent filming the dinner scene, with him wearing a heavy suit and necktie, sitting in a room filled with dead animals and rotting food with no air conditioning or electric fans. Everyone later recalled that the stench from the rotting food and people’s body odor was so terrible that some crew members passed out or became sick from the smell. Edwin Neal who played the hitch-hiker claimed: “Filming that scene was the worst time of my life . . . and I had been in Vietnam, with people trying to kill me, so I guess that shows how bad it was.””
– From IMDB
Apparently there is a new prequel piece in the works, an origin story for Leatherface. When I first heard about this I was eye-rollingly amused, wondering just what sort of backstory this guy needed (since this movie, and Psycho, were loosely based on the not-technically-serial-killer-but-still-objectively-awful Ed Gein, we can start with that). After watching the movie, though, I have to say I’ve got a lot of questions that need answering. It might actually be interesting to see.
Or, you know, probably not. But anyway.